Deaf pupil with Down syndrome passes Leaving Cert


HE MAY not have secured eight A1s, but Leaving Cert student Killian McDonnell, who is profoundly deaf and has Down syndrome, may have made history on opening his results yesterday.

His proud mother, Teresa McDonnell, believes her son is the first student with both disabilities to have passed the Leaving Cert. “According to every inquiry we made . . . this is a first,” she said.

The Dubliner was “delighted with himself” on finding out the results of his Leaving Cert Applied at Ashbourne Community College yesterday, Ms McDonnell said.

“We are blown away. We did not underestimate his ability but didn’t think the system would allow for it. The system’s been challenged,” she said.

The support from the mainstream Co Meath school and the Department of Education was “absolutely incredible”, she said. The school had “such a positive attitude to difference”.

A support worker in the classroom, to sign lessons, were among the aids he received. Mr McDonnell began learning Irish sign language only five years ago. “You cannot access education without a full language,” his mother said.

His classmates also learned sign language and “looked out for him”, she said. A major part of his learning was informal, such as social interaction, camaraderie and “where he fitted into the world”.

Ms McDonnell said her son’s achievements were down to his determination. More study is on the cards as he begins an intensive two-year literacy course. He later wants to study drama and become a performing artist playing Mickey Mouse at Disney. “And he’ll do it,” his mother said.